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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8.33%
Average: 15.63%
Pretty Bad: 5.21%
Total Crap: 2.08%

5 reviews, 66 user ratings

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Flash Gordon
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by brianorndorf

"The grand champ of sci-fi rock operas"
5 stars

There have been reviews, articles, and retrospectives written about the 1980 whiff of a blockbuster “Flash Gordon,” but few delve into the purity of the moviegoing experience: the bedazzled wonderment of the film that has fueled its underground success since the day it tanked in U.S. theaters. We could discuss the amplified artifice of the movie all day, but the bottom line is “Flash Gordon” is simply a marvelous potion of entertainment. It’s a space opera with arias of thunder, performances of valor, and production design of the Gods.

The tale of Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones), Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), Dr. Zarkov (Topol) and their adventures on the planet Mongo, evading the clutches of the evil Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow in his finest hour, even in the face of his Bergman credits) is one for the ages, dating back to comic strip appearances and serials of the 1930s. The 1980 version pays only passing homage to the extensive history of hands-on-hips derring-do, instead rocketing forward on a “Star Wars” train of thought, yet embracing the sounds and fads of the era to inform its jubilant portrait of adventure in alien worlds.

“Flash Gordon” in the eyes of director Mike Hodges, or more accurately producer Dino De Laurentiis, is a Studio-54-in-space environment, hauling in miles of spandex and buckets of glitter to encrust this exotic motion picture, accurately reflecting the dwindling disco appeal of the time. Brought to life by master production overlord Danilo Donati, the ornate visual construction of the picture is astonishing to behold; the film literally explodes with a festival of colors and opulent costume design. It lends the movie a majestic spilled-cocaine imprint that’s unmistakable and urges the film into distinctive areas of presentation George Lucas could never follow in his wildest dreams. Even if you loathe the film, you have to hand it to De Laurentiis for having the sheer nerve to marry family entertainment with production value more suited for an outer space version of “Caligula.”

Heightening the film’s contagious visual scheme are the brave performances, each one a testament to actor ingenuity and slight of hand. Sure, Jones has the misfortune of playing a blonde himbo (the poor bastard was dubbed on top of it too!), but he fills the quarterback-turned-revolutionary role with triumphant surf-school heroism. Anderson and Topol have the more flattering character arcs that require a continuous display of awe; Topol heading immediately north with his gracious enthusiasm and scientific mastery. More rollicking merriment is added to the frame by Brian Blessed, in a career-defining performance as Prince Vultan (the blustery leader of the Hawkmen), Timothy Dalton in full Errol Flynn mode as Prince Baron, and the wicked Klytus, played with perverse scarf-sniffing deliciousness by Peter Wyngarde.

However, there’s a special place in my heart for Ornella Muti as the mischievous, bore-worm-hating, intergalactic sex kitten Princess Aura. Decked out in flame-red hotpants and blessed with an Italian sensuality that could melt the ice caps, Muti is truly the star of the show, personally responsible for pushing hordes of adolescent boys through puberty with her displays of white-hot Flash lust. She adds an exhibition of supernova sexuality to a motion picture that needs a careless, assuredly panty-free devil to Dale’s wholesome, angelic future house frau.

And then there’s Queen’s famous score. Ah yes, those rock gods took time out of their busy world domination schedule to bestow “Flash” with a Godzilla-like sonic presence, wadding the picture up with outstanding rock and atmospheric numbers that flesh out the heroic qualities of the lead character and add a booming density to the action sequences. Sure, you have the “Flash! Ahh-ahh” title theme there to stand the test of time, but Queen goes for the throat often during the picture with the heaviest guitar sound of their career sending the Hawkmen in for the kill, or abusing their synth privileges following Flash into deep space. It’s a heavenly score (not to knock composer Howard Blake’s additional work), dare I suggest one of Queen’s finest offerings of rock-cocksmen mastery.

Now, the word “camp” is tossed around quite a bit in any discussion of “Flash Gordon,” and I have to be bitterly honest here, I just don’t see it. Camp to me is an overbooked winking convention in a motion picture that underlines every move it makes. “Flash” exists in its own world, where ludicrous notions of fashion and courageousness are the norm on Mongo. I’ll admit that Semple’s screenplay contains a tablespoon of self-acknowledgment, but I prefer to be blissfully unaware of such nonsense, instead embracing the operatic quality of all the red-and-gold bigness, gorging myself on the larger-than-life twinkle and visual majesty the picture is serving on a spandex platter.

Indeed, “Flash Gordon” is the savior of the universe, and, in over 25 years since release, the feature has found a home in the bosom of fans who appreciate a little sexualized stardust sprinkled on their acts of heroism and some fearless hard rock to goose this veritable Disneyland of sci-fi excitement. “Flash” is a rare bird indeed; a piece of glitzy cinema that defined the year it was created, yet is somehow timeless in its presentation, snowballing over the years into a cult masterpiece that’s ignited the imaginations of millions.

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originally posted: 08/03/07 17:08:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/23/14 Avery Hemming Great movie sadly without a sequel 5 stars
12/27/12 fwyook Am I the only one who thought Clytus was a bad-ass #2 (the mask, the hood, the voice!)? 5 stars
9/30/12 The Big D Light years ahead of Star Wars--more action, more humor, and cooler characters! 5 stars
8/17/12 Mark Vanselow They don't make them like this anymore. Not a "great bad film", just great, period. 5 stars
3/18/11 Onyx2626 Just saw and loved it. Now I know why my sisters came home singing "Flash,aa aaa!" 5 stars
1/25/10 art I WALKEd or should i say DROVE out on this at a DRIVE-IN! 1 stars
1/16/10 CJ A fabulous piece of escapism. Want a 'serious' piece of science fiction? Watch Blade Runner 5 stars
7/07/09 gc One of those "so bad its good" movies 4 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
11/26/08 Leo T Ahhhh... he'll save everyone of us !! 2 stars
7/19/08 sebastian Campy fun..the comic strip brought to life! 3 stars
6/05/08 Knowa Billiant on several levels! A true classic! 5 stars
12/16/07 Jason One of the greatest movies ever! A true sci-fi classic. 5 stars
7/25/07 Mike Wilson The best "bad" movie of all time... not the bore worms!!! 5 stars
3/23/07 David Pollastrini Not great not terrible 3 stars
3/20/07 Dez The cheese n' camp went over my then 12 year old head, but I loved it! Still do. 5 stars
12/15/06 Richard Paquette so, so 3 stars
12/05/06 David Cohen I liked it 4 stars
8/25/06 Al Guy You have to love the 80s! Flash! AHHHHH! 4 stars
8/15/06 Sugarfoot Flash, AHH! He's our miracle! 5 stars
5/11/06 dionwr VERY silly--but still enjoyable 3 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing Defender of the Universe. (GoSS!!! See it asap!) 5 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A He'll save every one of us, you know. 5 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius What do you mean, "Flash Gordon approaching?" 5 stars
5/02/06 William Goss Haven't seen it. 3 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH de palma's drill 5 stars
4/18/06 AJ Corny as hell, but ya gotta love it!! 5 stars
12/11/05 Joel I have seen this movie 50+ times 5 stars
8/12/05 ES I was 4 years old and embarassed that someone would see me watching this movie= not good 2 stars
4/02/05 Julian So much fun!! 5 stars
3/13/05 Danny A classic! And the soundtrack by Queen is killer! 5 stars
11/17/04 Mike E This is a masterpiece!!!!! 5 stars
10/13/04 M. Moore Peter Wyngarde is awesome as Klytus 5 stars
5/08/04 R.W. Welch No match for the classic 30's serial but has cult following. 3 stars
2/09/04 Thomas somes parts of the movie is ok some parts not so good but overall the movie is good. 4 stars
1/20/04 Terry Sarmento Great Movie!!! 5 stars
9/28/03 Kyle Jones' acting is laughable, but I can forgive that cause this movie rocks! 5 stars
8/25/03 April camp at its best!!!!! 4 stars
8/22/03 REBLYELL This film was done in a perfect manner for the material involved. 5 stars
8/17/03 3man I think this is more geared for older folks who watched the original Flash shows. 3 stars
7/01/03 Mike I'm only 22 but I've seen this movie tons and it's great! 5 stars
6/20/03 Sammy soundtrack by Queen??? 2 stars
6/09/03 Brendan Foster One of the best examples of a comic book brought to life 4 stars
5/16/03 Andrew Carden Campy and Fun, but Ultimately Overblown (and Stupid) Update Of The Comic Book. 3 stars
3/18/03 Doug Greatest. Movie. Ever. 5 stars
1/18/03 David Psychedelic! The He-man's Xandu! 4 stars
11/23/02 Trella Ocelot Silly movie! "All creatures shall make merry...on pain of death!" 4 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Very campy fun 5 stars
10/23/02 fandom stranger All-time top 10 fave! Ornella = Most gorgeous woman ever! Pure fun, eye-candy flick! 5 stars
7/14/02 R.W. Welch Campy treatment of the old strip, doesn't equal the '30's Saturday matinee serial. 3 stars
3/25/02 Tomas Rosenberg Absolutely wonderfull movie ( I´m 25 : ) ) 5 stars
1/16/02 David A. Corny, SIlly, and Comic-book style, but it's just oodles of fun! 5 stars
10/19/01 SirJaredG Best Movie of All Time!!! Pay special attn. to all of Sam J. Jones' quotes, and song lyrics 5 stars
9/20/01 Butterbean Unintentially funny as hell!! Watch it with friends! 5 stars
6/17/01 Tina Bate Completely Brilliant!!!! 5 stars
4/18/01 Cygnus Great, Anderson & Jones 5 stars
12/03/00 The Shrieking Ape Blasphemy MY EYES!!! AIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!! Fear this movie like you would the thousand eyes of Zoth! 5 stars
11/07/00 Charles Heppenstall Dale...what a damn shame. 5 stars
7/09/00 Anil Sharma The Great movie of all time 5 stars
4/10/00 Matthew Bartley Gordon's Alive!! 5 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan Alex Raymond should be rolling in his grave. The only really good thing: the Queen score. 2 stars
10/21/99 bullit17 I loved this movie when I was seven, 19 years later it still holds up. 5 stars
10/20/99 Stu Totally wunnerful. Just so much fun. Gordon's Alive! etc. 5 stars
10/19/99 The Bomb 69 hilarious 5 stars
7/04/99 randy grubbs campy crap, even the queen soundtrack is bad 2 stars
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  05-Dec-1980 (PG)
  DVD: 06-May-1998

  02-Jul-1980 (PG)

  02-Jul-1980 (PG)

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